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By: Taylor Selcke | Posted: 05/30/2013
Minnesota native Amy Matthews is bringing reality television to the Twin Cities. As the host of HGTV’s new series Renovation Raiders, Matthews works with a team of skilled professionals to pull off a complete room overhaul in a matter of hours while the homeowners are out to dinner.
Mpls.St.Paul Home spoke with the seasoned TV contractor about the show, tips for homeowners wanting to renovate, and her favorite home improvement stores in the Twin Cities.
Mpls.St.Paul Home: The entire season of this show takes place in Minneapolis. What do you like about filming in your hometown?
Amy Matthews: I worked on this show called Sweat Equity. It’s a long running show, and the first season was in Denver with a different production company. After the first season I said, “You know what? I can’t commute to Denver. It’s too far!” The head of the network called me up and said, “How about we move it to Minneapolis?” So it’s happened before with shows. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. It’s awesome for my family life—my husband and son are here—but also for the gains of employment for these great, talented people in the Twin Cities.
MSP: You’ve tackled projects all over the world—from Los Angeles to Thailand. What’s different about taking on projects in Minnesota?
AM: When you look at some of the shows shot in California, you might be looking at a bungalow that’s the same size as your bungalow in south Minneapolis, but you’re house is about $275,000 to $300,000, and out there, it’s $800,000 to $1 million. And you’re going, “Are you kidding me?” It’s unrealistic. We’re relatable and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I also love being in a place in the Midwest where people are excited about their projects. They want to get their hands dirty and they take so much pride in doing parts of the project on their own. There are a lot of great places in the country and I’m really lucky to have worked on so many different projects, but it’s my hometown. How can’t you love it?
MSP: You’re from north Minneapolis, you grew up in Robbinsdale, and you recently purchased a house in Afton. How did your Minnesota upbringing lead you to a career in the renovation business?
AM: I grew up doing a lot of projects through my church, actually. They did projects every summer and throughout the year that were kind of Habitat for Humanity–based. As a young kid if you asked me if I thought I was going to go into construction, I would’ve laughed. I played the violin and I was in the arts—I even went to college for that out east. But I think that taste and that early knowledge—putting a hammer in my hand at 14 years old—was really a great experience. I have a picture of myself with a bad ’80s hairdo doing some roofing. It was only later in my career when what I learned in television and film collided with an audition for a home improvement show years ago. I just felt absolutely connected to the process of television and home improvement. It was a great marriage.
MSP: Being a contractor is a difficult job in general. What additional challenges do you face being a contractor on TV? AM: It’s really a completely different game. On TV, there’s a broad scope of knowledge that I’ve had to research and gain to be able to translate to someone watching television. I feel like I have to be a jack-of-all-trades. The television part of it has forced me to get an incredible insight of all different facets of the home building and home improvement industry.
Jennifer Blaise Kramer is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s home editor. See bio
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